Exactly who is ‘Them’ who are against ‘Us?’

What in the world are the New Orleans Saints thinking?

Have they lost their ever-loving fleur de lis?

But there it is these days, stretched across a facade of the Saints’ training facility, an unmistakable rallying cry in 5-foot letters:

“PROVE THEM RIGHT.”

Prove them who?

I figured it was a trick, a ploy. There’s got to be some hidden meaning there.

You never know with head coach Sean Payton. He’s sneaky like that. Never know what he might be up to next.

But, no, apparently this is all on the level.

The Right Stuff mantra for the 2018 season means exactly what it sounds like it means.

The Saints go into the season as honest contenders for everything out there, including the Super Bowl. This isn’t fans’ wishful thinking. The Who Dats probably should have been in the big game last year but for a fluke play (not that the Vikings need to apologize, but still …).

Having learned to play defense around a Sean Payton-Drew Brees offense, what’s not to like?

That’s a pretty good concoction right there. You ought to be favored.

More importantly, that near-perfect mixture of youth, experience and Brees of a year ago lost only a few spare parts.

So a really good team returns so intact it was hard to make yourself pay attention to the NFL draft — what, maybe pick up a few special teams grunts?

It’s not looking through black-and-gold glasses.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed. Nationally, the Saints are in just about any conversation you can find when the Super Bowl “favorites” come up, or at least the teams to watch.

That usually has an organization walking on egg shells.

The dreaded E word — expectations — can be quite a burden.

So what’s up with that season’s slogan plastered all over creation?

It turns out they just want to prove all the experts right, that’s all.

At least you can’t accuse them of not thinking outside the box.

As meaningless motivational ploys go, it’s just nutty enough that — who knows? — it might work.

But it goes against everything the NFL considers holy.

Teams rally around odds they can defy, not expectations they can only hope to match.

Where’s the fun in that?

Better to whip up a chip on your shoulder that doesn’t exist.

They often look silly doing it. How many Super Bowl champions have you seen — teams that from Vegas to Canton were favored to win it all from the moment camp opened — finally hoist the Super Bowl trophy amid the confetti and scream, “Nobody thought we could do this!!!!”

When is the Super Bowl media going to grow some lemons and ask, “Who, exactly, didn’t think you could do this?”

Even in the midst of the Dallas Cowboys’ 1990s dynasty — kiddos, ask your parents — there was Troy Aikman bellowing to a confused press corps that “We proved all the doubters wrong!” — for the third time in four years, no less, with basically the same cast of characters.

But it’s the traditional way in sports. It almost becomes a cliché. And it gets worse every year thanks to social media. With that innovation, adored millionaire athletes somehow manage to find those pesky “haters” lurking behind every tweet, all the better to prove them wrong and gloat about it.

And an entire fan base is left to wonder whointhedevil they talking about.

In the Saints’ current predicament, some spoilsport might even point out that, in their long (admittedly mostly sordid) history, the Saints have never won back-to-back division championships.

Nobody is saying it can’t be done, it just never has been, and might make an appetizing obstacle were a team in the market for one. 

At the least I would have figured the Saints’ inspiration this year to go with something along the lines of:

“UNFINISHED BUSINESS.”

But good luck to the Saints. As oddball as this approach sounds, it is refreshing in its honesty.

No false odds.

If it works, perhaps it could start a new trend, based on honesty.

There’s only one problem.

This could set pregame coaching orations back decades.

It’s hard to imagine Payton working his team up to a frothy lather, all of it building up to screaming plea as bust down to locker room door to, “Now get out there and prove them … right!”


Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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New banner on the Saints practice field.

Twitter: Fletcher Mackel (@FletcherWDSU)